The Smoke Thieves, Sally Green

It was a little ambitious and a little insane

A princess, a traitor, a hunter and a thief. Four teenagers with the fate of the world in their hands. Four nations destined for conflict.

In Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares for a loveless political marriage arranged by her brutal and ambitious father. In Calidor, downtrodden servant March seeks revenge on the prince who betrayed his people. In Pitoria, feckless Edyon steals cheap baubles for cheaper thrills as he drifts from town to town. And in the barren northern territories, thirteen-year-old Tash is running for her life as she plays bait for the gruff demon hunter Gravell.

* * 
2 / 5

I read and liked Green’s “Half Bad”, but it wasn’t really my genre. The Smoke Thieves, however, seemed right up my reading alley – a fantasy novel, a princess looking to rebel, a demon hunter, some sort of intriguing political skulduggery – but unfortunately I was pretty disappointed. It felt like a was reading a novel aimed at thirteen year olds, but it had the occasional “adult” language and scenes thrown in that seemed like a cheap attempt to appeal to an older audience.

Men and power. They loved it and were addicted to it more than she could understand

Contrary to the synopsis of the book, The Smoke Thieves has five main characters, all of which had their own chapters. I liked two of them. Let’s start with those! Tash is a thirteen year old girl who hunts demons with her mentor, a gruff older man called Gravell. She’s spunky and bold and runs like the wind. Together, the two hunt demons for the smoke they expel when they die, which people use to get high off. It’s also incredibly illegal, so they live a life constantly on the move. Despite the title, The Smoke Thieves, it’s only really Tash’s chapters and the very end that actually have anything to do with demons or their smoke…

Then we have March, a servant to the Prince of Calidor. Calidor was at war with Brigant and in the process destroyed March’s homeland, the country of Abask. March seeks revenge and travels to Pitoria to find the Prince’s illegitimate son and deliver him to Brigant, to see the Prince suffer as he had suffered. I felt a lot of sympathy for March and high hopes for his romance arc. In tricking the Prince’s son, Edyon, March begins to fall in love with him. Unfortunately, Edyon is a bit of a boring flat pancake and seems like a bit of an idiot.

When I represent my country I am not a woman: I am a land and a people and a queen

Then we have Princess Catherine of Brigant, a country that is seriously sexist and her brother is an absolute ass, who is betrothed to the Prince of Pitoria. Unfortunately, 90% of her thoughts are occupied by our final character, Ambrose. I didn’t care one whit about Ambrose’s chapters, which mostly consist of travelling and thinking about how he can’t be with Catherine because of her station. Catherine, who is a bit more interesting, spends her time trying to win over the people of her new kingdom, thinking about how much her life sucks (it does, it’s depressing to read about), and daydreaming about Ambrose.

Five characters is a lot; it’s far too much when only a few of them are even likeable or interesting. Most of them have separate arcs and journeys, only really joining together at the end, and whilst I admire Green’s ambition, it didn’t really work. The story is very slow, it takes a long time for an overall plot to emerge, and there’s way too much focus on the romance. The twists at the end don’t really make sense and it’s all a bit black and white: some guys are clearly good, others are cartoonishly evil.

The Smoke Thieves would have appealed to me more when I was thirteen, but the book clearly seems aimed at older teenagers. The result is an unfocused book that drags on.

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book.

 

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